In my pre-trip research, Google was my best friend (as if it wasn’t already). I’m familiar with Northern Michigan, but I needed to find hotels along my route because I wasn’t about camp. Camping meant I would have to carry a tent on my bike. I did see a group of young men who did such a thing, and maybe I will in the future, but not for my first cycling tour. It was quickly obvious that I would not be able to find a hotel in the first two towns along the trail – Vanderbilt and Wolverine – because the towns are so small. So, against the advice I read online – “take it easy on the first day” – my first day cycling would be my longest, clocking in at 30 miles to get from Gaylord to Indian River. As my route would simply backtrack on the way back, this meant my last day cycling would also be my longest.
I will admit, cycling 30 miles on my first day was a bit overzealous, if necessary. Though the clouds held back their rain, and the sun even came out a bit by the end of day one. This section of the trail had the best scenery, but whizzing by on a bike did not provide the best opportunity to enjoy it. Beautiful pine trees decorated both sides of the trail, swampy marshes popped up along the way, I was surrounded tons of birds, darting across the trail, and I saw the one deer that I spotted along my route. She saw me, and then ran down the trail ahead of me for about 100 yards before ducking back in to the brush.
Throughout my time on the trail, I used an app called Map My Run, which uses GPS to map out your route, and you can select different exercises that you performed, not just running. Every mile, the app calls out how far you’ve gone, how long it has been, and your split pace. While at first I found the app’s audible function unnecessary, by mile fifteen, it became a countdown. Around mile twenty, I was weary, and turned on Spotify as loud as I could so that music powered me through the last miles. I ate two granola bars, and drank all my water.
By the time I arrived at the Northwoods Lodge in Indian River, I was sweaty, sore, and tired. My heart rate monitor said I burned over 2,000 calories. I took a bath, because that’s all I could really manage at this time.
Indian River is a small town, with not much going on. I got a recommendation from the hotel manager to check out The Inn Between, a bar in town, about a mile down the road. The bar overlooks the river, Indian River, and has a patio which I imagine is pretty lively in the summer. I had a couple beers, some food, and sat with locals around the bar. The manager sat at the bar, while the young bartender served another gentleman and me at the bar. An older, chatty gentleman came in, who eventually succeeded in purchasing a drink for the owner. It was not received very well. He bought me a drink too, and we chatted about his children, Alaska, and his dog. There was a young man, who sat at a table against the wall, who apparently comes in nearly every day to use the WiFi to play video games on his computer. After my meal, I tried to walk around the town a bit, but by 7 pm, the town had virtually shut down, and I went back to the hotel.
I read my book, watched some TV, and tucked in somewhat early. With the longest riding day under my belt, I was pleased with myself, and my nerves were all but gone. I did not know what the trail ahead held for me, but I knew it was less than 30 miles per day. I slept quite well that night.
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